Editor's Preface

  • M. Patrick Graham

Since 1987 and the gift of the 41 early German Reformation imprints by Richard and Martha Kessler, the Pitts Theology Library has collaborated with the Kesslers and almost 150 other supporters of the Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection to build one of America’s most remarkable collections of early sixteenth century imprints related to Luther’s reformation in Germany. This corpus now includes more than 3,700 manuscripts and printed works, of which 1,052 were written by Martin Luther himself. In addition to several hundred works by Roman Catholic authors, the collection also includes works by other reformers who were engaging Luther and his supporters along the way. Such diversity in the collection was part of the collection development policy from the beginning, carefully articulated by Pitts Librarian Channing R. Jeschke in collaboration with the Kesslers and the Standing Advisory Committee for the Kessler Reformation Collection. The aim was always to enable researchers to hear both sides of the sixteenth-century debate.

The acquisition of rare and important materials related to the German Reformation has been accompanied over almost three decades by the lecture and musical programs of the annual Reformation Day at Emory University and the print and electronic publications that make the riches of the Kessler Collection more widely known and accessible. In addition, the creation of the Digital Image Archive—with its 60,000 digital images of woodcuts and etchings from special collections at the Pitts Theology Library, freely available to all for teaching and research via the Pitts Library’s home page—has made thousands of woodcuts from the Kessler Reformation Collection available to the church and academy. The current pamphlet represents Pitts’ latest effort to make Reformation materials available for the first time in English translation.

Huldrych Zwingli’s Actio[n] oder Brauch des Nachtmals, Gedechtnus, oder Dancksagung Christi (1525) was purchased for the Kessler Reformation Collection in 2010 and given a bookplate to honor Prof. Valerie Hotchkiss for her lecture at the 2011 Reformation Day at Emory. This rare volume was acquired to document the vigorous debate between Luther and Zwingli about the Lord’s Supper, one of the most divisive issues among Protestants in the third decade of the sixteenth century. We are delighted that Dr. Jim West, widely known for his scholarly engagement with Zwingli’s work, helped us identify a Zwingli pamphlet for translation and then undertook this difficult project himself. His translation reflects both the strength of his scholarship and his personal engagement with the theological contributions of the great Swiss reformer.

Finally, I must express appreciation to three more who have made this work possible. First, Prof. Kurt K. Hendel, the Bernard, Fischer, Westberg Distinguished Ministry Professor Emeritus of Reformation History at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, carefully reviewed Dr. West’s translation and made many helpful comments. Prof. Hendel is renowned for his translations of the works of Johann Bugenhagen, a member of the Scholars Advisory Board for the Kessler Reformation Collection, and a steadfast friend of the Pitts Theology Library. In addition, I must note the generous contribution of Nancy and Walker Ray in honor of Susan Snow Hope, which has made this publication possible. Dr. Ray serves on the Standing Advisory Committee for the Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection, and he and Nancy’s encouragement and involvement over the years has been exemplary. They are indeed friends of the Pitts Theology Library. Once more, the staff of the Creative Group, Emory University, have used their fine artistic sense and design expertise to produce a publication that is at once beautiful and reminiscent of the famous Flugschriften of the early sixteenth century. All these—translator, reviewer, patron, and designer—have collaborated in a beautiful way to allow Zwingli’s voice to be heard once more, but this time in English. For this we can all be thankful.

M. Patrick Graham
Margaret A. Pitts Professor of Theological Bibliography
Candler School of Theology, Emory University